Speech of H.E. Ms. Anne Grillo, Ambassador of France to Lebanon Celebration of the centenary of the Hôtel-Dieu de France - May 5, 2022

Mr. President,

Mr. Minister,

Reverend Father Rector,

Mr. Director-General,

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

One hundred years ago, the foundation stone of the Hôtel-Dieu de France was laid, completing the creation of a major university hospital of reference in Lebanon and in the region, after the opening of the Faculty of Medicine at Saint Joseph University in 1883. A project with a triple ambition to which we are very attached: francophonie, excellence and solidarity towards the most vulnerable and the most modest.

This centenary is an opportunity to reflect, to use a term dear to the Jesuits, but also to celebrate and recognize what has been made possible by the Franco-Lebanese friendship and accomplished in a century in the service of the sick, medicine and access to health care for all.

Today, there is emotion, joy, and pride in coming together, despite the adversity of the context.

The Hôtel-Dieu (HDF) is indeed one of those institutions that "shaped" Lebanon.

It is an institution linked to the history of the country, and to its hardships as well. I would like to give two examples of this:

  1. throughout the 1975-1990 war, the HDF was on the dividing line, and welcomed Catholics, Orthodox, Sunnis, Shiites, Druze, without making any difference between people, as it continues to do today;
  2. recently, the hospital reserved an unconditional welcome for the injured of the popular movements of October 2019 and then, on the night of August 4, for the injured of the double explosion on the port.

It is a reference health institution in general in Lebanon. I am thinking for example of the contribution of the work of Father Ducruet, former rector of USJ and former president of the Board of Directors of HDF to the design of a public health policy.

The HDF is an illustration of the unfailing and singular affection that unites France and Lebanon.

This is reflected:

  • in the conditions of the emphyteutic lease granted by France, which consists almost of providing the land on which the hospital is located;
  • in the density of hospital-university cooperation with French institutions, without any equivalent;
  • in the attachment of the French community living in Lebanon to "their" hospital;
  • in the emergency aid mobilized after the explosion and in response to the health crisis.

Today, the Hôtel-Dieu de France faces the challenge of the profound crisis that this country is experiencing.

Reverend Father Daccache you have decided to move forward, without giving up, to make the crisis an opportunity to rebound, to work differently, so that the HDF remains the institution of reference that it is, by giving it new life.

You are supported in this task by the Director General, Mr. Nassib Nasr, to whom I would like to pay special tribute today. Dear Nassib, you do not neglect any subject: from the logo to the autonomous production of electricity, including access to health care for the most vulnerable, without forgetting the mutualization and the union of forces with the neighboring hospitals of Achrafieh, in order to have a greater influence in the negotiations.

Both of you always insist, on the fact that you work as a team, with Professor Roland Tomb, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, because the vocation of the HDF is above all academic, with the management teams, with the teams of support services, with the nursing staff. To all of you, I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to your commitment, your courage, your generosity and your sense of responsibility. This honors you.

For all of you who spare no effort to ensure that the USJ and the Hôtel-Dieu remain institutions of excellence, faithful to their commitments, in particular their social vocation, because access to health care is a fundamental aspect of the primary right, the right to life, France remains at your side.

The President of the Republic promised not to let go of Lebanon and the Lebanese people, despite the troubled times we are living in all over the world. In fulfillment of this presidential promise, and on this special day, I am honored to announce that an exceptional joint support to the University of Saint Joseph and the Hôtel-Dieu de France has been granted.

  • 1 million euros of exceptional aid will be given to the USJ to allow it to pursue its support to the students who need it the most. Indeed, this country must continue to be able to train its future talents here in Lebanon. We wish to support nearly 1000 students. This will be done thanks to the Oriental schools funds and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs.
  • A significant drug donation that we are in the process of finalizing with the Ministry of Health, the AP HP and AP HM to provide and deliver to the Hôtel-Dieu the medicines it needs and that it can no longer find locally. This is based on the identification of needs established by the AP HP.

Even if the crisis constantly brings us back to urgent and daily concerns, this centenary is an opportunity to look to the future. Places like the HDF, through their vocation of teaching, passing on knowledge, opening up to the international community and welcoming the most vulnerable, constitute the core of a revival, for a more stable, prosperous and recovered Lebanon.